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Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Sasol Wax Art Award winner reaches new frontiers

Hentie van der Merwe has been awarded the Sasol Wax Art Award 2008, in the third year of this prestigious competition that recognises the contribution and work of South African professional career artists. The winner joins the two previous winners - former Durban-based artist Jeremy Wafer and Walter Oltmann - as artists who have been recognised by their peers for excellence in professional practice.

The five finalists, ranking amongst South Africa’s most dynamic contemporary artists, were selected from over 100 nominations. They are Avhashoni Mainganye, Tracey Rose, Stephen Hobbs, Hentie van der Merwe and Brett Murray. Each of these artists had to produce a body of work that used wax in either process, medium or concept.

Les Cohn, Curator and Artistic Director of the Award said the judging process was detailed and demanding of the panel. “The judges deliberated for many hours as there were several strong contenders for the winner,” Cohn said.

Van Der Merwe’s work is a complex installation which pushed the boundary of his own practice. In his work, entitled Reaching New Frontiers, he explores new avenues in terms of medium, execution and display.

The relationship between art and industry is not only contemporary but is recorded throughout art history. According to the artist, one of the earliest examples of an artwork where the relationship between art and industry is explored, is in a poem by Virgil called “The Georgics” from 29 BC, in which “a strong sense of the necessity and dignity of labour breathes throughout the poem from beginning to end”. In the fourth book of this poem the poet speaks of bees and beekeeping as a means of exploring the strife and flux between the metaphysical and the material. Another conceptual concern which the artist outlines is that of the artist/patron alliance.

This theme is explored through a video of an unnamed man in a suit reading Virgil’s text in its original latin (with subtitles on the screen). The screen is located on the wall of a sterile office cubicle, executed to the exact specs as set out by governmental labour practices.

The judging panel, convened by artist and academic Gordon Froud included Melissa Mboweni, Daniel Mosako, Marco Cianfanelli and Jeremy Wafer.

The Sasol Wax Art Award Finalists’ Exhibition and the Sasol Wax Art Award jewellery outreach finalists’ exhibition (see separate article) moves to Durban in 2009 when it will be on display at the KZNSA Gallery from February 24 to March 21.

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